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The Difficult Dozier Decision

Brian Dozier has been part of some bad Minnesota Twins teams. However, Dozier has also been part of a rebuild that seems to be headed into a new era of Twins baseball. At season’s end, Dozier seems destined to hit the free agent market. Minnesota hasn’t approached him about a contract extension and Dozier is excited to see what free agency could bring for him and his family.

After this year’s free agent period, should Dozier be looking forward to the process? Are the Twins already prepared to move on from the Dozier era?
Image courtesy of Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports
“I’ll Be A Free Agent”
Dozier made it clear to the assembled media last week that he is heading into free agency. When the Twins signed Dozier, it was certainly a unique contract. He signed a four-year contract for $20 million that bought out the remainder of his arbitration years. For the Twins, it created some cost certainty. For Dozier, it allowed him some financial stability, he got to avoid the messy arbitration process, and he knew he could enter free agency in his early 30’s.

This offseason’s free agency period has been strange to say the least. Yu Darvish, the biggest name on the free agent market, took his time in selecting a new home. Even after his signing, the market has been moving slowly despite spring training being well underway. While the free agent class wasn’t one of the best classes in recent memory, there were some names that should have drawn interest.

There were very few second baseman on the free agent market and not many of them were of the same caliber as Dozier. Players like Neil Walker and Brandon Phillips aren’t exactly going to be huge difference makers for a team. Former Twin Eduardo Nunez is the lone second baseman to sign. A year after hitting .313/.341/.460, Nunez was able to sign only a one-year, $4 million deal.

According to FanGraphs, Brian Dozier has been worth 14.2 WAR over the last three seasons. That means he’s been worth roughly $113 million over that span. Nunez has been worth 5.9 WAR and $47.4 million during the same time period. Dozier is one of the best offensive players at his position and he won his first Gold Glove last season.

Since 2006, there have been few second basemen who have been able to score big free agent contracts. Baseball Prospectus found five second basemen to get more than $25 million as free agents. Only Ben Zobrist (4 years, $56 million) and Robinson Cano (10 years, $240 million) brought in over $40 million.
It’s clear to see Dozier’s value but his age going to start playing a factor.

Better With Age?
Dozier fits the definition of a late-bloomer. His breakout season came at Double-A when he was 24 years old. He wouldn’t make his big league debut until age 25 and he wouldn’t play a full big league season until he was 26. He hit under .245 in each of his first three big league seasons and never had an OPS higher than .762.

Over the last two seasons, his OPS has jumped to .886 (2016) and .856 (2017) while averaging 38 home runs per year. I’ve been critical of Dozier’s defense in the past but his defense made remarkable strides last season. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, only Ian Kinsler ranked better than Dozier among AL second basemen.

Moving On
Many of Minnesota’s top prospects currently play shortstop and Jorge Polanco is coming off a strong second half. Royce Lewis, Nick Gordon and Wander Javier all could shift to second base if Dozier finds another home for 2019. If Polanco can continue to play well this year, a starting middle infield of Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco seems a likely scenario for next season.

Considering Dozier’s age, and other options in the system, it seems likely for the Twins to say goodbye to Mr. Dozier. Younger players are going to be ready for the big league level. I believe Dozier’s veteran presence is something that also can’t be overlooked. A team trying to contend can’t be made of all young and unproven players. However, the front-office still has a difficult Dozier decision.

Do you think it’s time for the Twins to say bye-bye to Brian Dozier? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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61 Comments

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tarheeltwinsfan
Mar 05 2018 09:12 PM

I hope the FO will attempt to sign Dozier long-term,,,but frankly, it doesn't make good economic sense for the Twins to offer what he could probably receive as a free agent. . I hate to see him go. He is a class act who professes his faith and does things away from baseball which are good, positive , humanitarian actions. 

    • Blake, Jerr, Riverbrian and 7 others like this
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OldManWinter
Mar 05 2018 09:49 PM
He has paid his dues here. I would hope he would accept a fair offer and stay.

You wonder if there is any motiv@tion to stay
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OldManWinter
Mar 05 2018 09:51 PM
... if some long-term incentives exist such as Twins HOF?
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EddieMatthews
Mar 05 2018 10:11 PM

If Dozier was batting third or clean-up and driving in 100+ runs, his value would be much higher.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he's not a Mercedes.  We would like to think so but he hasn't been in a position to deliver and then delivered.  Keep him, pay him a little of that Joe dough.

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KirbyDome89
Mar 05 2018 10:30 PM

 

If Dozier was batting third or clean-up and driving in 100+ runs, his value would be much higher.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he's not a Mercedes.  We would like to think so but he hasn't been in a position to deliver and then delivered.  Keep him, pay him a little of that Joe dough.

Not that RBIs are particularly telling but he has basically driven in 100 runs from the leadoff spot each of the past few seasons. That number would jump significantly if the Twins decided to hit him in the 3 or 4 hole. He has been delivering for a while now.  

    • Oxtung and Original Whizzinator like this

If he has another good season, which I think he will, offer him the one year compensation contract, and after he declines, let him hit FA but I'd be OK if they offered him a deal. He deserves to be paid. Offer him a deal and see if anybody else tops it. If so, the Twins could trade Gordon for starting pitching as he won't be getting a starting role then.

Difficult? According to whom?It makes no sense for this team to offer him anything more than a qualifying offer.He might have a difficult decision to make...

    • SarasotaBill, ThejacKmp, beckmt and 5 others like this
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TwinsWonWithHunter
Mar 06 2018 03:12 AM
I think it comes down to, going forward, will the Twins be better with Dozier, or better off without him?
It is always a risky proposition to project replacement players, or in this case our cache of SS prospects (partnering with Polanco shifted to 2B).
I don't advocate paying a player because they somehow deserve it for what they done. They have already gotten paid for what they have done.
What is required I think is a cold, objective calculus.
There are always other factors. But it is a tough sell to say we would be better off without a 2B in the prime of his career who has hit 75 HR the last two years. We'd have to really trade in some rhetorical gymnastics to make that kind of case.
This is a strange situation. Based on recent free agent deals for second basemen it feels like he is not going to get what he rightfully thinks he’s worth ($15MM+/year over 4-5 years, and that is even low). I would bet he ends up getting what the Twins would be more than happy to pay but with other, younger and less proven, guys on the team set to cash in soon will his pride cause him to walk? I hope not. Would love to see him back on a 3 year deal and use some of the surplus middle infielders as trade chips at the right time.
    • caninatl04 likes this

Just like this year, I expect many free agents will learn that the market next year won't be what is was in the past. Seemingly last winter we tried to trade Dozier and the best offer apparently was DeLeon. Other teams don't seem to value him as much as Twins do.

 

 Will he really be the Twins best second base option for the next 3-4 years? What other position value does he have? Firstbase and DH type players don't seem to get paid that well unless they are the top super stars. As a firstbase/DH, I think Dozier would be placed in just above the Morrison category and we know what he got.

 

Based on these factors, he may become a very affordable option to be retained by the Twins.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

Dozier has been "worth roughly $113 million" over the last three seasons.

 

Wow.Who knew?

 

. I would bet he ends up getting what the Twins would be more than happy to pay but with other, younger and less proven, guys on the team set to cash in soon will his pride cause him to walk?

This. He'll think that he's worth $15 million a year for 4-5 years, nobody will bite, he'll end up settling for $24 million for three years -- somewhere else.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

Let's think about this:

Can his character and leadership be replaced soon?No

Can his power/bat be replaced at this position?No

Would he be considerably better at this position than any prospect over the next couple of years?Yes

Would the Twins be worse off without him?Yes

Is the Twins window open the next couple of years?Yes

Could the Twins save considerable money going with a good young prospect and not signing him?Oh yeah!

 

I'm surprised with the amount of criticism we have on this site of the Twins not willing to spend money to field a winner that people don't realize what we have in Dozier.  

 

    • Dman, KirbyDome89, Dave The Dastardly and 1 other like this

Well, it's obviously not an easy decision for the front office.There is no denying that Dozier has been very valuable to the Twins, especially the past two seasons. But given his age, the potential length of a new contract, and the quality of the prospects coming through the system who can replace him.... I'd say "Thanks For Everything" and let him pursue his free agent dreams.

Should be interesting.Is Dozier our best option at second base in 2019?Probably.Is Dozier the best option at second for the Twins in 2020?Maybe, maybe not.Is Dozier the best option at second for the Twins in 2021, most likely not.  

 

Expect the Twins will have a cordial conversation with Dozier and his agent at the end of the year.Dozier will likely test the waters before making his decision.Should the market dictate that a two or three year deal with the Twins at prices less than he would have liked make sense, he could return.I know I like him in a Twins uniform and would like seeing him at Target Field for a few more years.  

I think there's another factor at play here for the Twins.

 

Does Dozier fit with the team (and their upcoming prospects) long-term at second base?Would he be a better fit at third base? 

 

Let's face it: he hits like a third baseman and minus the arm strength, he probably could field third base quite well. If Sano is destined for 300 pounds, he'll be Ryan Howard v2, which doesn't play at third. 

 

Should the Twins be thinking about paying Dozier to play third? Is an all-star quality 3B more valuable or harder to find than an all-star 2B?Would a position shift later this year or going into next give him an opportunity for a bigger payday in 2019 and beyond?

 

I think it's worth investigating.

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lukeduke1980
Mar 06 2018 08:56 AM

I'm guessing he'll be offered a 3 year contract by the Twins but Dozier will be looking for 5 or 6 years.I doubt he'll find it but will be turned off by the Twins' offer and will go elsewhere.

 

Then he'll come back 7 years later and we'll make a Brian Dozier video compilation set to the'I'm coming home' song to be played at his first game.

He will be 31 coming up here in May.So he will be 32 years old when his new contract starts.As good as he is now and and I think he will be for a while, I can't see the Twins going more than 3 years.Maybe a move to 3rd could help with financial decisions as Teddy said.But that is really going to depend on what Sano does this year, which means a mid-season extension is unlikely since there are some many variable that will go into this contract.

 

I can't see anyone offer much more than $15M per year.So, I would be happy with a 3 year $15M offer, especially if it is to play at 3rd base (weak arm and all) if Sano either moves to first/DH or flames out.

It's tough.

Chances are you would move beyond Dozier at second base. So, how would he fit in longterm. 1B? DH? But you have the Sano issue for DH. And we saw how easy it might be to get a comparable guy for first.

So Dozier will be aging and entering a free agent market. Considering he didn't draw alot of interest with a easonable contract in the past two trade markets that he was dangled for pitching, he could be in trouble.

Of course, a fantastic 2018 would draw interest. So he will be playing hard...maybe too hard...in 2018.

This will be the season that we see how the current group deals with institutions -- Mauer and Dozidr. How they deal with players like Hughes and Gibson. Do they sign some players to longterm contracts (Buxton) and not others (Kepler, Rosario.

I'm sure the Twins and Dozier could reacha deal, but I doubt that he would take less than $30 million over 3 years, at this point. But another year of wear-and-tear might prove fruitful to both parties.

But unless the Twins are going to give a qualifying offer, then he IS tradebait and they should be prepared to move on during the season, if they are "just on the fringe of contention" and if Polanco can play second and Gordon proves ready for mid-season callup.

 

Difficult? According to whom?It makes no sense for this team to offer him anything more than a qualifying offer.He might have a difficult decision to make...

My thoughts exactly.From a FO standpoint, I think the decision is simple.Considering the economics of a long term deal coupled with who they have coming down the pipe, a qualifying offer is about what they should do.I like him as a player and I think he brings some hard to replace things to the table, but a mid-market team has no business offering a 3+ year deal to a backside of prime player. 

 

I'd rather let a player go a year to soon than a year too late.

 

Difficult? According to whom?It makes no sense for this team to offer him anything more than a qualifying offer.He might have a difficult decision to make...

 

Probably according to those that think the Twins will be better with him on the team than off the team.

 

How do we know that he isn't going to have the career arc of Jeff Kent -- a player who had his most productive years in his 30s and wasn't listed on the Mitchell report?

 

It's easy to just "plug in" Gordon, make assumptions on production and then make more assumptions that now X Ace can be had with the Dozier dollars.Unfortunately, it isn't really that simple.

 

X Ace (this year Darvish) may not or, more likely, probably won't want to play here.

 

Gordon would have to just destroy AAA this year for him to look the part of a Dozier replacement.Yes, he's going to be cheaper, but you still have to get the production somewhere.

    • Vanimal46, KirbyDome89 and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this
I do think this is a tough decision. But, I think he will be good for three more years, so if they can agree on that length, I do it. Even with the MI depth.

Unless they are going to spend that in big time pitching, I don't know where else the money will even go.
    • jharaldson, Twins33, big dog and 3 others like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Mar 06 2018 10:37 AM

Tough call. I've seen posts here about contracts of 3 years/45m and even 3 years/30m. I think you do both of those deals in a heartbeat if Dozier would take them. We might be overpaying in year 3, but probably not in years 1 or 2 so you could even frontload the contract. 

 

The real potential problem is that Dozier supposedly wants more than 3 years. I can't blame him, this is probably his one chance to get a big contract that will pay him well into his mid to late 30s.The Twin should not give him more than 3 years. Recent history is showing us that players break down quickly after 34/35 now that the pharmaceutical industry is less well represented in the clubhouse. The Twins seem to have replacements in the wings and other younger players to lock in so 2B is not the place to allocate high dollars long term.

 

Bottom line for me - If Dozier would sign a 3 year deal at 15m per or less, grab it before he changes his mind. In the more likely event that he wants more years and/or more money , give him a QO and let him see what happens in free agency. I know the FO will try to get the door open if the market says his value is something the Twin would pay but I think it will be hard for him to turn down a 3 year deal with the Twins, hit the market, find out that he overestimated his value, and come back. 

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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 06 2018 10:43 AM

 

This. He'll think that he's worth $15 million a year for 4-5 years, nobody will bite, he'll end up settling for $24 million for three years -- somewhere else.

If Dozier continues his recent level of play, he'll get a lot more than $8m a season for three seasons.

 

The dude has averaged nearly 5 fWAR per season over the past four seasons. I'd be surprised if he gets less than $12m per season and will likely land somewhere in the $15m per season range, though he may have to take fewer overall years to get that rate (assuming next offseason is similar to this offseason, which is a pretty big assumption to make).

    • Vanimal46 likes this
I agree with sloopjont.

(Phone isn't letting me "like" or quote).

Unless we see Dozier side this season, which I doubt will happen, there is nothing to suggest sudden regression or sudden durability issues.

I like Gordon and the other young infield prospects, but none of them are ready to replace Dozier immediately or the near future. Looking at history and the trends in the market, I'd say something along the lines of $15-16M per is very fair. 3 years? Yes. 4 years? Probably, especially if you can front load the first couple of years. 5 years? Nope. Not unless it was for far less and an option type year.

Isn't the point to keep the best players for the best team? There is room for Dozier the next 3-4 years.
    • ken, Dozier's Glorious Hair, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this

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